It is time for back to school. Kids are heading back to the classroom for another year of learning. It’s time for new books, new school supplies, and new backpacks! Backpack safety is a topic I often discuss with patients, especially those with children. Spinal misalignments can happen with improper backpack use. This can cause a multitude of health issues now and for years to come. Sometimes these issues may not show up right away. So it’s important to practice good backpack habits now to prevent issues down the road.

Here are some simple tips to make sure that you and your child are wearing your backpack properly.

Choosing the Right Pack
Choosing your backpack is the most important tip for backpack safety. It is important to make sure you are choosing the right backpack. Not all backpacks are created equally. Especially if  you or your child is on the smaller side, you may have to look around for the appropriate size. The backpack should not be more than 4 inches below your waist and should not be wider than your your torso. It’s a good idea to have straps that have padding and are adjustable. Backpacks that have a padded back will also help keep objects in the backpack from poking into your back.

Shoulder Straps
How you wear your backpack is important for backpack safety. Always use both shoulders straps when carrying your backpack. Carrying your backpack on one side will cause an uneven load on one part of your back. This could lead to having a high shoulder on one side or even a left or right lean towards one side. This will definitely be a cause of back pain.

You will also want to tighten the straps to keep the load closer to the back. Loose straps will cause the load to be off-center and your posture will shift to counterbalance this abnormal load. Forward head posture and slumped shoulders are often a result of this improper backpack wear. I will often see neck pain, headaches, and fatigue with these types of abnormal postures.

Loading Your Pack
How you load your backpack is also an important for backpack safety. Is it a good idea to pack your backpack as lightly as possible. Your backpack should never weigh more than 15% of your body weight. Go through your backpack and take out items that are not absolutely necessary. Encourage your children to store their heavy books either in their classrooms or in their lockers. I have even recommended for some parents to purchase two sets of school books in order to keep one at home and one at school. Although this can be costly, it can save your kids from having to carry heavy loads to and from school on a regular basis. Regularly carrying too much load on your back can definitely put abnormal stress and strain on your spine.

Getting Your Backpack On
Struggling to get your backpack on is a common backpack safety violation. When putting your backpack on, lift properly at the knees to pick up your backpack. Try to avoid bending over to pick up your pack. Make sure the straps are loose when putting the pack on. Once the pack is on, tighten up the shoulder straps. This will help you to avoid twisting your back and arms in an abnormal position to get the backpack on.

Improper backpack usage can cause poor posture, back pain, neck pain, headaches, fatigue, and many other health problems. Poor posture left uncorrected can cause early onset of spinal decay and disc decay later on in life. It has been shown that improper backpack usage does not cause scoliosis, however if your child already has scoliosis improper backpack usage is definitely not going to help.

Encourage your child to tell you if they experience any pain, numbness or tingling while using their backpack. Do not ignore any symptoms that you or your child may be developing due to improper backpack usage. Remember pain is a symptom of a problem. Ignoring pain just perpetuates an underlying condition. If you or your child is experiencing any pain make sure you are evaluated by a chiropractor.